Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bee Workshop Day 1

That break was entirely too long!  I missed these sweet kids over our long break, and I have made changes to next year's schedule because of the gap.  Instead of 5 workshops, we will have 6 four-week workshops during the 2017-2018 school year!

Today was the first day of our workshop on honey bees.  The classes began with an overview of bees, and a comparison of bees versus wasps.  They were shocked to learn that yellow jackets are not bees at all!  As pollinators, bees play a very crucial role in farming, and hopefully the students will be gaining a better understanding of the insects in the upcoming weeks! 

We focused a lot on math today in Farm Fusion class, as bees are like tiny mathematicians!  The class learned why shapes with equal side lengths are stronger than shapes such as rectangles, with unequal side lengths.  We talked about triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, and octagons, diving into their Greek and Latin roots.  Bees make their hexagon honeycomb cells out of beeswax, and the students learned that the hexagon is the shape that stores the most honey for the least amount of beeswax in the walls!  They used popsicle sticks as equal side lengths, creating different shapes on graph paper.  The graph paper allowed them to get a better picture of the area inside each shape.

Next, the students modeled a honeycomb structure on the floor.  They loved this!  It helped them to see just how well the hexagons fit together, and how new cells are able to be built without having to create very many more walls of wax!  We integrated all of this hexagon talk into our art project.  In art, the students used hexagon bolts to stamp out a honeycomb background.  Next week, we will be adding bees to the foreground.

We began reading the story, "The Bee Man of Orn" today.  This story will take multiple class days to complete, and it has already led us to some excellent discussions!  In the story, The Bee Man is approached by a Junior Sorceress, who believes that the Bee Man has been transformed from some other creature.  Using Beauty and the Beast as a reference (because I will not pass up any opportunity to belt out a Disney song), we discussed the common literary theme of being transformed from one form to another.  For the at home writing assignment, the students will be writing about what creature they would have been transformed from if they were in a story of their own!  "The Bee Man of Orn" brings up many excellent bee facts, and we stopped to talk about each one.  For instance, the Bee Man takes part of his colony and forms a new colony.  We talked about how bee colonies will swarm as they look for a new hive to call home.  I love each of their enthusiasm for the story, and I look forward to their reaction next week as we follow the Bee Man's adventure!

Of course, we needed some outside time today!  The weather was gorgeous, and we definitely enjoyed it!  The younger class played a fun game of Bee Tag.  One student was a mean wasp and tried to tag the bees before they could return to the hive! 

Even though this week is about bees, we talked about goats today, as well.  We have a couple of goats on the farm that are due to kid soon, and I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss it!  We talked about the signs that I look for to monitor impending labor.  Also, I explained to the students the difference between my Saanen goats, which are an Alpine breed, and the Nigerian Dwarf goats.  I used the map to explain where both breeds originated.  The kids learned about the equator and the poles, and WHY temperatures are higher at the equator.  (We had someone volunteer to be the sun, and we spun a glob as it orbited the student.  The class was able to see that the equator is closer to the sun than other parts of the earth.)  Because the Nigerian Dwarf goats originate from a warm climate, they can be bred any time of the year.  Alpine breeds, however, usually are not able to have kids in the fall/winter.  Their bodies are used to cold climates, and they are seasonal breeders.  This was a lesson that was too good to pass up!